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Abstract

Marjane Satrapi’s graphic novels Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood (2003) and Persepolis 2: The Story of a Return (2004) —focused on her youth and early adulthood in Iran and Austria— reveal in many ways the conflicting coexistence between the West —Europe and North America— and the Middle East. This article explores feminist Orientalism and national identity in both Satrapi’s works, with the purpose of demonstrating the manners that these comics complicate and challenge binary divisions commonly related to the tensions amid the Occident and the Orient, such as East-West, Self-Other, civilized-barbarian and feminism-antifeminism. In the first part of the analysis, feminist Orientalism —a concept based on the works of Edward Said and Roksana Bahramitash, which is defined in the paper as any form of domination from the West on the East, validated by women’s rights and/or Western feminism— is applied on the two comics of Satrapi, in order to explain how they break some stereotypes linked to women from the East, like their passive and subjugated role in a patriarchal and religious society. Through the study of feminist Orientalism on both graphic novels, it can also be observed the various ways in which the protagonist disputes the notion of the West as the best place for women to live, unlike the “uncivilized” Orient. The second part of the analysis exposes the complex national identity of the main character. On the one hand, she opposes the nationalism that the Iranian fundamentalist regime wants to impose, and, on the other hand, she is attached to her family and Iranian culture. Moreover, the article delves into the ambivalent national identity of the protagonist during her experience as a migrant in Vienna, where she defies misunderstandings and Orientalized visions, but also suffers because of the tensions and differences between the Occident and the Orient.

Note on the Author

Diego Maggi, born in Venezuela, is a doctoral student from the PhD in Spanish Literatures and Cultures at Georgetown University, Washington D.C. He graduated from Pontificia Universidad Javeriana in Bogota with a Master’s in Literature. His thesis in that program, “La dislocada identidad nacional del migrante venezolano en tres novelas” analyzes the topic of national identity in Venezuelan literature related to the massive migration occurred in this country during the last twenty years.

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